What Selfridges did first: the world's first beauty hall and more

— 17 January 2013

The Beauty Hall, 1910

In 1910, Harry Gordon Selfridge unveiled the world's first ground floor beauty hall at Selfridges.

Anticipating the emerging trend for cosmetics and make-up - previously worn only by show-girls - Mr Selfridge expanded the store's pharmacy into a full beauty department.

He was a true lover of fragrance and, believing it heightened the senses, wanted to offer the experience to everyday shoppers. Harry Selfridge gave his new perfume and cosmetics hall pride of place at the ground floor entrance: it quickly became the store's most profitable department and revolutionised the modern department store as we know it. Today, Selfridges is home to the largest beauty hall in the world.


Retail theatre, 1909

The beauty hall wasn't the only pioneering project undertaken by the forward-thinking Mr Selfridge. When Louis Blériot became the first aviator to fly over water in 1909, his fragile plane was put on show in Selfridges for four days, drawing crowds of over 150,000. Mr Selfridge had truly established the theatre of retail and from then on, if a topic or trend was new and exciting, Selfridges would showcase it first.

Windows, 1909

A true visionary, Mr Selfridge created the concept of visual display as we know it today. The windows were dressed with story-telling masterpieces – some of which wouldn't look out of place today – and the displays became a spectacle in their own right.


The bookshop, 1911

In 1911 the store become home to the world's biggest book shop which, contrary to the norm at the time, was designed to have the feel of a library with tables and reading lights for customers.


Pushing the boundaries, 1922

The famous Palm Court Restaurant made waves when the store first opened as couples were encouraged to dine alone in an era of strict chaperones. By 1922, everything had changed - except the fact that nice girls never wore trousers. When Mr Selfridge dressed his waitresses in smart trouser suits - calculating that it was quicker to reach the kitchen than when wearing a skirt - it caused an outrage.

Introducing Coca-Cola, 1922

Harry Gordon Selfridge brought over America's favourite soft drink in 1922, when Selfridges become one of the first places in the UK to stock Coca-Cola.


The world's first television, 1925

Fascinated by technology, Mr Selfridge invited Scottish inventor John Logie Baird into the store to demonstrate his new invention of television to the public in 1925, saying at the time: 'This is not a toy - it is a link between all peoples of the world'. By 1939, Selfridges became the first store in the world to open a public Television Transmitting Studio and to this day, continues to have one of the most advanced TV departments in the UK.


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